Beach Rats review: Eliza Hittman writes and directs this exceptional film about a Brooklyn teenager who spends his days experimenting with drugs and looking for older men online.
Beach Rats review by Paul Heath.
It Felt Like Love director Eliza Hittman brings her second feature to screens, a gritty though beautifully crafted tale of seduction, lust and sexual confusion set during the monotonous days of summer in contemporary Coney Island, New York. The film joins the likes of the outstanding recent LGBTQ+-themed efforts, Moonlight, Call Me By Your Name and God’s Own Country; movies that have managed to enjoy the mainstream.
This film, deserved of its place in amongst that trio of glorious cinema efforts, revolves around the central character of Frankie (Harris Dickinson), a nineteen-year-old struggling to combat the dreary, bleak day-to-day of aimless life. We meet him alone in his bedroom, a camera-phone flash occasionally lighting up different parts of his body as he photographs himself, a process that leads him to his webcam on his computer, the young man hitting up Chat-Roulette style websites to interact with men. His obsession with this new-found online interest intensifies, and Frankie soon finds himself meeting with various gay men at a nearby beach notorious for cruising. Frankie also finds himself starting a new relationship with a young girl, his desires competing against one other in a small world constricted by a seemingly lost, purposeless existence, bounded by peer pressure and intense home-life as witnesses his bed-ridden father gradually losing his life to an unrelenting disease.
Beautifully crafted, Beach Rats is a film not so much about a complete, strong, all, but ultimately its skilfully crafted portrait of life at a specific time.
Related: God’s Own Country review
Positives to come from it is the striking central performance from Dickinson, a young English actor clearly with a bright future ahead of him. The actor flawlessly embodies Frankie in an extremely sensitive and extraordinarily raw performance, one that is also completely rounded, tightly-honed and oh so expertly crafted. The supporting cast too are remarkable, stand-outs being Madeline Weinstein as Frankie’s prospective girlfriend Simone, and the pre-eminent turn from Kate Hodge as his stern, though clearly concerned mother.
Hittman is undoubtedly an emerging talent. While some may struggle with the perhaps frustrating, open-ended-ness of the story, the filmmaker clearly wanting the audience to think and make up their own minds, she has crafted a piece of work with very little to fault. The look of the film, bleakly, though wonderfully shot in what appears to be 16mm format by cinematographer Hélène Louvart, is perfect in every way, and the sound design and score by Nicholas Leone, who makes his debut, equally impressive. These elements form to create a mood for the piece that really does linger in the mind long after the credits roll.
Exceptional indie filmmaking.
Beach Rats review by Paul Heath, November 2017.
Beach Rats will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 24th November 2017.